In the book, Great Work, David Stuart of O.C. Tanner states that “good is the foundation of great.” He quotes Carl Sagan who once said, “If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe.” The idea is that great work is built off of a bunch of good work. Apple pie cannot be created if there aren’t apples and wheat and cinnamon and an entire list of other good things that come together to make something great.
David goes on to talk about how starting with the good we have in our workplaces and building off of those to make great work is something we can all do. As individuals and as leaders, we can all take the good we already have and work with it to make it great. While I tend to agree with him, human nature makes this process so difficult.
The reason? We are perpetually impatient.
We want great work now. We want new employees to hit the ground running. We want Apple-like innovation overnight. We want to build it and have them come immediately. We don’t want to wait for great work. Good work is never good enough, yet we don’t want to wait the minutes, days, weeks, months or years necessary to make good work great.
Rather than build on good work and make it great, we decide that because the good work isn’t great we are going to move on to something else. Rather than give ourselves and our employees time to make great work, we put insane time constraints and burdens on them that creates lackluster work in an effort to get something finished.
Later in Great Work, David talks about the power of the pause. The ability to stop and give an idea time to fully form. The ability to pause and not jump on what seems right at the moment, but really think it through in an effort to create great work. So many times in our workplaces we jump right in at first thought rather than pausing to fully think things through.
There may be processes, procedures, products or people in your organization who are ready to go from good to great if only they were given the proper time. The way to get to these things is to ask, “what things in our company are really good?” Once you have the answer to that question, you then start determining if any of those things can go from good to great. Think about these questions.
1. What makes this product/person/process good?
2. What areas of opportunity does it have?
3. What does “great work” in this area look like?
4. What resources/time would it take to make this great?
5. Are we willing to put that time/effort into it? Do we have the patience?
The answers to these questions can help a business determine what things are worth taking the time to make great and what things may be “good enough”. While ideally all work would be great, sometimes that is not realistic.
The biggest opportunity facing many businesses today desiring to do great work is patience. If businesses could understand the power of the pause or the power of putting the time in to make things great, then more work would be great. More work would set itself apart from every other product/process out there. More work would be the work we set out to do in the first place….before we lost our patience.